Mark Plaatjes, who won the world marathon title for the United States in 1993, helped cut the opening ribbon at the latest Museum Of World Athletics exhibition in Portland today as part of the build-up to this summer’s World Athletics Championships Oregon22.
Plaatjes, who was accompanied at the ceremony at Pioneer Place shopping mall in downtown Eugene by the City Mayor, Ted Wheeler, also presented his green Springboks’ singlet, which he wore when running his marathon personal best of 2hr 08min 58sec in Port Elizabeth on May 4, 1985, to MOWA’s World Athletics Heritage Collection.
“I am honoured that my singlet is now part of the Museum of World Athletics and is on display in Portland for the next four months,” said Plaatjes.
“My donation is in the best of company when you consider that one of Eliud Kipchoge’’s Rio 2016 Olympic shoes sits nearby!”
The MOWA Track & Field Heritage Exhibition, Oregon22 in Portland will be open to the public until the end of the Championships, which are due to run from July 15 to 24.
A second MOWA exhibition in Eugene’s University of Oregon, which will accommodate the 2,000 athletes involved in the Championships, will open on June 23 and will also close on July 24.
The Portland exhibition features a strong emphasis on United States athletes and includes more than 30 artefacts from legendary performers such as Jim Hines, Bill Toomey, Carl Lewis, Allyson Felix, Aries Merritt, Gail Devers, Michelle Carter, Michael Johnson and Brianne Theisen-Eaton.
But there will also be items on show given by or on behalf of international performers such as Emil Zatopek, Klaus Wolfermann, Eamonn Coghlan, Carlos Lopes, Sebastian Coe, Ana Fidelia Quirot, Carolina Kluft, Christian Olsson, Robert Korzeniowski, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Eliud Kipchoge, Kevin Mayer and Mary Keitany.
Michael Johnson’s Sydney 2000 Olympics golden spikes will be on show in Portland, and his Atlanta 1996 Olympics golden spikes will feature in the second MOWA exhibition at the University.
Plaatjes was the first South African to break 2hr 09min and his 1985 time put him 12th on the world all-time list.
However, due to the apartheid system in South Africa, Plaatjes and his compatriots were in international sporting isolation.
In 1988, Plaatjes, a victim of apartheid due to his mixed race, fled his homeland with his family.
They gained political asylum in the United States, although he was not granted citizenship until 1993, just weeks before the World Championships in Stuttgart.
Sasha Spencer-Atwood, Director of Athlete Experience at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22, Jessica Curtis, General Manager of Pioneer Place and Billie Moser, Travel Portland Vice President International Affairs & Community Engagement were also part of the Portland opening ceremony.
The Oregon22 exhibitions, featuring track and field exhibits from 1908 to the present day, feature a small fraction of the World Athletics Heritage Collection which is on permanent virtual display on MOWA’s online platform, accessible via the World Athletics site.